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RADIUM HILL

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About:

The now abandoned Radium Hill uranium mine is located 23 kilometres south of the Transcontinental Railway and the Barrier Highway, between Olary and Mingary in South Australia.

It is approximately 340 kilometres north east of Adelaide and about 90 kilometres west of Broken Hill, the nearest population centre.

Radium Hill was the First Uranium Mine in Australia

The Radium Hill mine became the first uranium mine to operate in Australia when it was worked between 1906 and 1961, between 1954 and 1961 the mine produced one million tonnes of mineralised ore which resulted in the production of 860 tonnes of triuranium octoxide, an uranium compound. The settlement built at Radium Hill to service the mining operation housed up to 1,100 people at its peak, however, it is now nothing more than a ghost town with most of the infrastructure either demolished and moved away, or simply abandoned.

Radium Hill Mineralisation Discovered in 1906

The Radium Hill mineralisation was discovered in 1906 by Arthur Smith, a prospector who mistookthe dark coloured ore for tin oxide and tungsten, however, samples sent to Adelaide University for assaying, were examined by geologist, Douglas Mawson, (who later became famous as an Antarctic explorer). Mawson found the samples contained mainly radium and uranium, with traces of many other minerals. Mawson named the ore 'davidite' after Antactic explorer Sir Edgeworth David. When mining started at the site it was known as, ' Smiths Carnotite Mine,' carnotite being a mineral similar to uranium. Later the same year Mawson later changed the name of the mine to 'Radium Hill.' Arthur Smith worked the mine for the first two years after which time he allowed his mining lease to lapse. Other leases in the area went for five kilometres along the lode discovered by Arthur Smith, one of these leases was half owned by Douglas Mawson. The lease was acquired by the Radium Hill Company in 1908 and work at the site resumed with the sinking of more shafts.

Radium Hill Uranium Served the Worlds Pioneering Nuclear Research Industry

Concentrate from Radium Hill was taken to Victoria and New South Wales for refining until 1911 when the company built its own refinery in New South Wales at Hunters Hill. Radium Bromide produced at the Hunters Hill refinery was used for research in the emerging radioactivity and radiation industries. Some of the radium was sold to early nuclear researchers Marie Curie, the first woman to be awarded a Noble Prize, an award she won twice, and Ernest Rutherford who was known throughout the world as the father of nuclear physics and the first man to successfully slit an atom. The Radium Hill mine closed in 1914 and the Hunters Hill refinery closed in 1915. The Radium Hill mine remained closed until 1923 when it was reopened by the Radium and Rare Earth Treatment Company NL which kept it operational until 1931. This company built a treatment plant at Dry Creek, Adelaide, the same year but it eventually became uneconomic and was closed again in 1932.

Radium Hill Mine Closed for the Last Time in 1961

The Federal and South Australian Governments reopened the Radium Hill Mine in November,1954 as part of a seven year supply agreement with the UK and USA governments. The South Australian Government operated the mine on this occasion and constructed much valuable infrastructure that included sealed raods, an 18 kilometers spur line to the Transcontinental Railway and a siding at Cutana, 145 town houses were built as well as a hospital, school, retail shop, swimming pool, canteens, recreation facilities, commercial facilities and a bus service to and from Broken Hill. The mine closed for the last time in December 1961.

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